Neil Postman, in his book "The End of Education," structures his book around the idea that education may serve many different "gods." He uses that term to represent the idea of an ultimate purpose of education--the story we tell ourselves that justifies all our decisions around how to educate our children. He points out that one popular god is the god of Economic Utility. (This is the god summoned by the poster many of us saw on our high school teachers' classroom walls--the drawing of a huge garage in the foreground with the back ends of numerous expensive cars peeking out, and a sunset over the sea looming in the background, all in the service of the motto "The result of a good education")
The god of Economic Utility story...tells us that we are first and foremost economic creatures, and that our sens of worth and purpose is to be found in our capacity to secure material benefits. This is one reason why the schooling of women, until recently, was not considered of high value. According to this god, you are what you do for a living--a rather problematic conception of human nature even if one could be assured of a stimulating and bountiful job[....] Goodness inheres in productivity, efficiency, and organization; evil in inefficiency and sloth[....]
The story goes on to preach that America is not so much a culture as it is an economy, and that the vitality of any nation's economy rests on high standards of achievement and rigorous discipline in schools. There is little evidence (that is to say, none) that the productivity of a nation's economy is related to the quality of its schooling....
Those who believe in it are inclined to compare the achievements of American schoolchildren with those of children from other countries. The idea is to show that the Americans do not do as well in certain key subjects, thus accounting for failures in American productivity. There are several problems with this logic, among them the difficulties in comparing groups that differ greatly in their traditions, language, values, and general orientation to the world. Another is that even if it can be shown that American students are inferior in some respects--let us say in mathematics and reading--to students in certain other countries, those countries do not uniformly have higher standards of economic productivity than America. Since 1970, the U.S. economy has generated 41 million new jobs. By contrast, the entire European Union, whose population is close to one-third larger than that of the United States, has created only 8 million new jobs. And all this has occurred during a period when American students have performed less well than European students. Moreover, it can be rather easily show from an historical perspective that during periods of high economic productivity in America, levels of educational achievement were not especially high. (28-29)